ow, a brief trip to Granada to visit the famed Moorish Alhambra palace. Although I have spoken to people about their experiences visiting the Alhambra, none of the superlatives and glowing descriptions I had heard really meant anything until I actually saw it for myself. Even showing these pictures do not give it justice. The experience goes beyond words and pictures.

The palace compound, built originally by the Moors, rambles up the top of a ridge that extends outward from the mountains that come right to the edge of the city of Granada.

As in virtually all buildings of consequence in Spain, water is one of the common design themes, with many fountains, streams and reflecting ponds throughout the Alhambra palace complex. Many of the Moorish fountains have a peaceful, laid back, quiet nature as can be seen by the examples in these pictures. In many places the quiet gurgle or gentle splashing of flowing water can be heard, flowing by in a small stream or from a fountain. They even went so far as as to channel water down both handrails of the stairs (just visible in the upper left of the photo, behind the white pillar).... The engineering behind all of this is very impressive, and one is left with a great respect for the people who accomplished all of this many hundreds of years ago without the benefit of the technology we have these days.

The construction, elaborate ornamentation and artwork in the buildings that make up the Alhambra are nothing short of amazing, and although from a distance it is obvious that the place is large and impressive, there is little on the exterior facade to hint at the beautiful intricate artwork inside the complex.

I will attempt to describe the experience.....

First, the artisanry is manifested in many forms. The architecture of the buildings mixes both indoor and outdoor spaces, and makes much use of incredibly ornately detailed arches to pass through from one space to another. The basic construction is stone and mortar, with mostly marble floors throughout. Virtually every surface is decorated - the upper walls and ceilings with plaster shaped into ornate repetitive high relief geometric patterns. Lower walls are usually covered with ceramic tile arranged in criss-cross or checker-board patterns.

The difference from what we normally see in contemporary tiles is that rather than using large tiles with a repeating pattern designed into each tile, these tiles are much smaller, with the pattern being made up by many smaller tiles that form the geometric pattern. It is similar in concept to mosaics, but the tiles have consistent shapes and colors and are larger than the tiles used in mosaics.

One of the many reflecting pools found at the Alhambra. This one is up towards the top of the complex, near the summer palace called the Generalife.